Infrastructure construction specialist Inyatsi Construction Group Holdings chairperson Frans Pienaar says a willingness from government to transfer the responsibility for the implementation of infrastructure projects to the private sector will help to drive growth in the industry.
Public–private partnerships and turnkey-type projects should be used to ensure that risk is managed by the parties best suited to do this, he adds. Construction businesses, rather than government or the client, are best equipped to take on the responsibility of implementing infrastructure projects, states Pienaar.
“Parties must approach this process with an attitude of cooperation rather than working against each other. Business has the ability to implement, whereas government’s responsibility is administration. If government transfers the implementation responsibility to business and only administers the measurement of the deliverables, implementation will happen a lot quicker,” he explains.
He highlights the importance of infrastructure development, noting that it facilitates the growth of business and invites foreign investment. However, he points out that client bodies often lack the capacity to implement infrastructure projects. Therefore, he recommends that they should act as banks in the process, allowing construction businesses that have the expertise and capacity to implement them on their behalf.
Pienaar maintains that a lack of capacity in government and professional structures tasked to implement infrastructure projects is one of the main challenges facing the construction industry in Africa, resulting in issues with the delivery of high-quality products within the specified time and budget, and payment issues.
“These issues impact on the industry. “Slow delivery of projects and delays in coming to market [result in] increased costs, with the lack of capacity among implementing agencies placing an additional burden on the private sector that is already struggling with cash flow,” he says.
Further, substandard-quality products, a decline in infrastructure development and competitor and small construction companies, as well as the subsequent monopoly in the market, have an adverse impact on the construction industry.
He outlines that a key area of concern in Africa has been insufficient infrastructure to support the supply of water to people in increasingly urbanised areas. “We are trying to focus on reducing the backlog in water supply structures. The situation is improving, but is still way behind the curve.”
Pienaar maintains that the basic standards in the construction industry are enforced through an outdated model requiring clients to be advised by professionals. “The model should rather evolve towards a more modern form that involves a team of all the stakeholders of a project. “It should focus on the delivery of fit-for-purpose products and meeting client requirements rather than external factors such as professional pride and industry envy.”
According to Pienaar, the best way to enforce these standards is through self-regulation, but he warns that industry bodies might be too fragmented to ensure efficient self-regulation.